No matter your industry, niche, or target audience, accessible video makes things better.
Consider the Curb Cut Effect. When laws were passed that sidewalks needed to have curb cuts – those smooth dips down to the road at crosswalks which make getting around in a wheelchair easier – city designers realized they had many unexpected benefits. Bikes and skateboards could move through the city, older people enjoyed walking around more, and delivery drivers could bring goods into stores faster with less breaks and spills.
There are numerous methods of improving video accessibility in the world. By trying them, we could discover not only how people who need them can enjoy what these additions allow, but also ways in which they help everyone.
Changing What Is Seen
The most well-known form of video accessibility is Closed Captions. By displaying the dialogue of a video, anyone can see what the actors said without hearing the words. Some are shortened or abbreviated for fast talkers, and music lyrics or background sounds are also included. Words must be set to display at the right time, and these captions can be turned on or off.
Have you ever been watching TV in a noisy room or while working out at the gym, and the captions allowed you to follow the story? That’s the clear benefit of captions. They’re also great when you want a video to be shown to people who speak different languages – the captions can be translated and offered as language options.
Open Captions are like Closed Captions, but a part of the video so they can’t be turned off. Sometimes these are called hard-coded, burned-in or baked on. Older video players might not have the option to turn on captions, so making a video with Open Captions solves this issue at the post-production stage.
By giving your video Open Captions, you’re helping someone in the future so they don’t need to ask for captions that aren’t on. Choosing good text width and height allows you to ensure the captions will be easy to read for everyone.
An alternative to captions is the Transcript, which is like a post-production script for a film made available to anyone who wants to read along while watching the video. They come in different styles:
- Verbatim Transcripts contain everything the actors say, including anything they started to say before getting interrupted and words like “um” which usually get edited out
- Plain Word Transcripts only have the dialogue that is wanted, allowing editors to remove anything unnecessary
- Media Alternative Transcripts contain both the dialogue and sounds plus descriptions of what is being shown in the video, such as actor movements or expressions
What’s the other benefit for Transcripts? If you’ve ever argued with someone about what the actor actually said in that loud scene of a movie, a Transcript would solve your debate.
…Or What is Heard
Known more in the film industry, Standard Audio Description (AD) is when descriptions are added to a video’s audio in the silent moments between dialogue. Sometimes these are called Descriptive Narration or Video Description, and they might include scenery or actor details, visible signs or when the scene changes. Importantly, descriptions are only of things that can’t be heard, meaning that explosions and punches are left as just audio.
When a video doesn’t have the necessary amount of silence, parts of the video are paused or carefully lengthened to give that extra time. This is called Extended Audio Description. Imagine how useful it would be to have someone describing the critically important things happening during a chaotic action scene, where much of what happens would otherwise be missed.
Also, can we all agree to never auto-play videos? When something starts as soon as a page loads, this can prevent accessibility tools like screen readers from operating correctly. If you’ve ever forgotten that your volume was turned up, you know the pain of having a loud video start without warning.
Accessibility Is Considerate
When color is used to give the viewer information, something might be lost if those colors are hard to tell apart – unless that similarity was the point all along? But otherwise, think about how you use colors and how some people might not see all of those colors. Bright, contrasting colors often make things more fun to look at anyway! There are even places online that can help with this.
Finally, let’s slow down the flashing! Video with more than three flashes in any 1-second time span can cause certain people to suffer seizures, so don’t do it. Even people without a likelihood for seizures will enjoy your content more.
Accessibility Is For Everyone
So the time has come to make your video accessible. But how can you get started? And how expensive will it be?
Guides like this article from the UW contain many free options and ideas for outsourcing the work. You can hire people to write transcripts and perform as narration voice talent, and there’s even a free, fully-accessible media player to use on your web pages.
When you make your videos accessible, you help others and yourself. Bigger audiences mean greater awareness of the video and more interest in what you do next. In the end, this important work can and will help everyone. Need help incorporating accessibility into your video strategy? Reach out to AJI Media!